As I'm sure you all have been keeping yourselves up to date on the recent lockout happenings (if not, check out the lockout page at SBnation.com), then you all know it is very likely the player leaders will vote this Monday to recommend approving the current CBA proposal.
After that will be a jumbled, confusing process where players can essentially meet with their teams, start practicing, discuss contracts, and vote to recertify the NFLPA. However, excluding any lingering issues the NFLPA may wish to revise, the core details of the new CBA are now available, with more than a few interesting changes. The most important ones for the Falcons look to be the rookie wage scale and the new salary cap.
The rookie wage scale could not have been implemented at a better time for the Falcons. Julio Jones was likely on his way to a monster rookie contract, but with limits on how much he can earn the Falcons can now channel that money toward free agency. The "strong anti-holdout rules" are also a nice bonus for teams (though given that Julio has been practicing for free I'm not worried about him at all).
Under the system, all draft picks will sign four year deals, after which they will be unrestricted free agents. The only exceptions are first-round picks, whose contracts can be extended for a fifth year much like restricted free agents. That's great news for any team looking to hold on to their franchise players a little bit longer.
As many have already speculated, the salary cap for this year will be just a shade over $120M. However, for the next two years clubs will be required to spend 99% of the current salary cap. As it stands, the Falcons are about $13M under the cap right now. That should leave room for one big free agent splash and a couple of re-signings.
If needed this offseason, teams can also borrow $3M of their cap room from a future year for veteran re-signing purposes. However, should they still be pressed for cap space there remains the likelihood of the Falcons having to restructure the contracts of guys like Michael Jenkins and Jamaal Anderson, due to make $5M and $3.5M respectively, or possibly even cutting them altogether.
So, as it stands, the Falcons seem to be in pretty good financial shape moving forward. Of course, technically everything is still on the table until the players sign on the dotted line. Let's hope that's soon.
For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic.